WTI: What are your thoughts on the current state of the Indian luxury watch industry? What are the marketing strategies you've adopted to target the Indian audience?
LR: The Indian market is a very important market for us, and we already have a lot of Indian clients who are based worldwide. See, Indians love to travel a lot, and that makes them more aware of the brands. Our Indian clients comes from various parts of the world like Dubai, London, Zurich, Paris, Singapore etc, thereby making it an important market for me to address when I took over two years ago. This is why we now have a dedicated manager for India, and are investing much more heavily in marketing now than we did in the past. The Vogue Women of
the Year awards in collaboration with IWC was an example of this. Our Brand Ambassador Sonam Kapoor, received the Vogue & IWC Fashion Icon of the Year award during this event. Another example is our partnership with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation – an NPO which brings together top-flight sport and social commitment at a high level. We will be hosting an event with them in India, towards the end of the year.
When it comes to the Indian market, our main aim is to, one, track new clients, and two, reassure our current clients that IWC is actively involved with the country. We are aiming at investing in delivering a high quality service to the market here, and more importantly, bring the full collection to the country.
WTI: How does the Indian market differ from the Middle East?
LR: IWC uses one common strategy worldwide. We adapt it to the Indian specifically in terms of the marketing, press support etc. We like to meet the clients directly so we do small events, for regular business – like the Vogue Women of the Year event in Mumbai. It really helped boost our marketing strategy for the female market, for whom in the past three years we have introduced the Portofino 37 and then the Da Vinci collection. It's already a pretty good success. We are investing more in the feminine line and that's why Sonam kapoor is our perfect brand ambassador. This was the strategy for the first part of the year. For the second part, we will be launching the Ingenieur Collection which goes back to the original round design.
WTI: Does the American with a German-Swiss tilt help the brand stand out from the rest of the Swiss watch industry? How?
LR: Let me take you through our heritage first. The American flavor came from Boston. Our founder, Mr. Florentine Ariosto Jones, came to Switzerland to look for and work with qualified watchmakers. This is when he chose Schaffhausen – an area located in eastern Switzerland. Switzerland has always been known as the country for watchmaking, and at the time, most of the watchmakers would work from their homes. When our founder came to Switzerland, he came from the American Industrial Revolution, and built a manufacture where all the watchmakers could work under the same roof. It is this American-entrepreneurial spirit which we try to move forward with in terms of creativity, technology, relationships with our ambassadors etc.
The Swiss watchmaking part of us from the German part of the country, is who we are on the design, and this translates in our work. We love design, perfection, discretion, and our clients are also looking for that. It's our identity, a part of our DNA and we are proud of it.
WTI: Name one recent experience with the brand which you will always cherish?
LR: I love history and watchmaking. I like to read about history and watchmaking. We're celebrating our 150th anniversary in 2018. So, this summer, we went to Boston to prepare for next year. It was a very emotional moment for me to visit the city of our founder and to understand the spirit of entrepreneurship that made him go to Switzerland and give him this energy to go find the best watchmakers in Schaffhausen.
WTI: How does IWC combine its heritage and tradition with innovative technology in terms of the timepieces you produce?
LR: The IWC manufacture was started in 1868, which means that next year, we will be completing 150 years. When you see our timepieces,
you notice both the heritage of the brand and the urban touch as well, to make it appealing to the market today. When we create our timepieces, we are always looking into our past and history, because we want to respect the DNA of our brand. We don't want to do something completely different, but that doesn't mean that we don't want to move forward. You have to be modern in every way so that you're able to appeal to the next generation as well, because there's nothing worse than being a luxury brand which was only famous with your parents or grand parents. If we don't appeal to the next generation, then the brand is dead. So, we are always looking for ways to move forward, but without forgetting where we come from, because that is very important.
WTI: With the digital age taking over mainstream forms of advertising, social media influencers seem to be the way forward to promoting brands now. What are your views on the same?
LR: Social media is growing, so the influencers are as well. But we're very, very careful, because today everyone thinks they are an influencer. We want to talk to very professional people. Also, the press is also an influencer, so if their social media is really well done, they too are influencers.
See, of course it's a developing new media, so we have to address it, but we want to address it properly.
WTI: How has your association been with IWC Brand Ambassador, Sonam Kapoor, till now?
LR: Associating with celebrities works well in every country. When we look for such associations, we first like to meet the personality and understand them. See, we are a Swiss-German manufacture specialising in the manufacture of the highest quality of watchmaking. We are not at all a showy brand, and we resonate class, design, and discretion. We look for ambassadors who match this personality of ours, and we feel Sonam Kapoor is the perfect match for our universe. She's talented, feminine, humble, and a very nice person. She matches our exclusivity and luxury status very well. It's because of her presence that our feminine line is doing very well for us at our various points of sale in India.
WTI: Most of the leading watch brands are moving towards smartwatches to target the millennials. Does IWC also have similar plans for the near future?
LR: For the moment no. For us, a smart watch is a gadget like your phone
which you have to change every few months or in a year, to upgrade it to a new technology. Why not, instead, buy a mechanical watch which will last you for your lifetime and even longer? For us a smartwatch is not an issue because 85% of the population, they don't wear a watch. So, for us it becomes more about educating the millennials about a watch first. I know lots of people who have two watches – a gadget for your activities etc and a mechanical watch for the time. It all comes down to a piece of art versus a gadget. So there is no competition really. I think there is space for both of them, but your mechanical timepiece remains through generations.
Also, my watch has a power reserve of 7 days, and each gadget has a barely power reserve of 24 hours, at the maximum.
WTI: What are specific digital marketing strategies you are looking at?
LR: We're developing all our social media platforms, and we also have a local Instagram account called @iwcwatches_india – which is not the case for many of the brands. We want to build a very specific form of communication through that platform.
WTI: Have you always had an interest in watches?
LR: I did my MBA in luxury goods, so, in a way it was always my goal to work in the luxury business and watches have always been very personal for me. It's a very intimate accessory for men. If I don't have my watch on my wrist, I feel completely naked, like ladies without diamonds, bags, and shoes.